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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 31, 2012
Sue Davis, Environmental Health Division, 360-867-2643
Art Starry, Environmental Health Division, 360-867-2587
Andy Haub, City of Olympia, 360-753-8475

Ward Lake in Thurston County Unsafe for Recreation

OLYMPIA --Warning signs have been posted at community beaches and the public boat ramp at Ward Lake due to poor water quality. Recent tests conducted by the City of Olympia and Thurston County show fecal coliform bacteria levels that are unsafe for swimming and water contact recreation. People should not swim, wade or otherwise use Ward Lake for recreational or other activities until testing shows the water to be safe. Thurston County Environmental Health staff notified community representatives around the lake about the water quality problem and signs were posted and made available to the communities around the lake.

These results are unprecedented and unexpected. Lakes in Thurston County typically have less than 50 fecal coliform/100 ml. More than 500 fecal coliform/100 ml were in samples collected August 29th from Ward Lake. The water quality standard for primary water contact (swimming) is less than 50 fecal coliform/100 ml of sample. These results indicate a significant new source of pollution is affecting the lake. "We're very concerned about the water quality results," says Rich Hoey, Olympia Public Works Director. "City staff and crews are actively investigating possible causes, including testing and televising stormwater and sewer pipes throughout the area. We ask that residents also check their septic systems, STEP systems and/or grinder pumps to look for leaks or any malfunctions."

Thurston County Environmental Health Director Art Starry says caution is also advised for pet owners in the area. "We recommend that people keep their pets from swimming in the lake, and that they wash their pets if they wade or swim in the lake. People should also wash their hands and other body parts that come in contact with wet pets or lake water with soap and clean water."

Environmental Health staff will sample multiple locations around the lake today (August 31st). The LOTT sewage treatment consortium has agreed to analyze the samples. City of Olympia staff has been checking the sewer and storm water lines around and near the lake. They have brought in additional resources to help with a detailed inspection of the sewer pipes to look for leaks, breaks or cross connections with the storm water system. The majority of the homes around the lake are connected to the city sewer system, however there are some neighborhoods and shoreline homes served by septic systems. The lake will be posted until water quality improves. Additional sampling and investigation is scheduled to continue.

For City of Olympia sewer system questions and concerns, please contact-Andy Haub at the City of Olympia, 360-753-8475 or ahaub@ci.olympia.wa.us

For health-related concerns, please contact-Art Starry, Environmental Health Division, 360-867-2587 or starry@co.thurston.wa.us



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3